sexta-feira, 12 de junho de 2009

100 Must-read Science Fiction Novels

If you’re looking for a reliable guide to what science fiction is, you have come to the right place.

This is a book that contains a list of the one hundred irreplaceable books from the science fiction genre.

But it is also rather more than just a list, because not only is each book lucidly introduced, summarized and placed in its general context, there are many ‘read on’ suggestions.

These will take the interested reader down a number of sidetracks to distant literary places, some of which will come as a surprise to many people.

The net that contains SF is a big one and fantastic literature can be cast over a wide area. Not everything is obvious. Beyond even the recommendations, there is an argument that runs throughout the book. It gently explains, defines, promotes, defends science fiction, always with a civilized enthusiasm and from a position of authority.

When I discovered the genre long ago, late in my teens, there were far fewer SF books to read than there are now. In fact it felt (perhaps falsely) that with a little dedication it would be possible to sit down and read everything that had ever been published. I never attempted the feat, although when I encountered some of the more serious science fiction fans I did wonder if they were trying it.

In the early to middle 1960s, most of the science fiction that then existed had been written for magazines. SF was predominantly a shortstory form, and novels were comparatively rare.
The few there were had almost all first appeared as serials, which is how many of the older novels on the main list in this book were published.

To return to the story of my own brief contact with reading science fiction, I devoured the books avidly for a few years, but by the time I was in my mid-twenties my tastes had become more complex and not long after that I stopped reading science fiction almost completely. (Almost completely, because for several years I was a publisher’s professional reader, and throughout my career I have occasionally reviewed new books.) It always feels to me as if I gave up before I had seriously tackled the subject.

I was surprised to discover, therefore, when I read this long list compiled by Messrs Andrews and Rennison, that I had read almost half of the books here.

Naturally, they tend to be the older ones, but not entirely.

Do I agree with the choices on the main list? Yes and no. I would like to have seen J.G. Ballard’s stories given prominence over his novels. He is still an under-rated writer, and that is because people judge him by his novels: on his scale, the B-list.

There ought to be a Richard Cowper book here: The Twilight of Briareus or The Road to Corlay, or his stories. The same from Robert Sheckley, who was one of the finest 20th century short story writers, but whose novels weren’t as good. I would have chosen John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids or The Kraken Wakes over The Midwich Cuckoos.

Aldiss’s Greybeard rather than Hothouse. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.
What would I have left out? The Asimovs and the Heinleins, certainly, since in completely different ways they did much to distract everyone from the idea that science fiction should be written well.
(This is a personal view – the consensus of the SF world is against me.)

The novels by ‘Doc’ Smith, JackWilliamson and Raymond F. Jones are period pieces, and belong in a museum. Including two novels by Alfred Bester is including one too many, but The Stars my Destination is probably central to the entire SF argument. And H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau is famous, while not being one of his best books.

On the whole, though, I go along with the selections here. I have long argued that science fiction is not something that should be judged as a unitary form. Any generalized argument in favour of SF, no matter how well or strenuously mounted, can be instantly undermined by pointing at one of the genre’s many, many embarrassments.

(The opposite is also true, but not as subversively enjoyable to do.)

Much better to think of SF as a place where adventurous or original writers can take advantage of certain blessings practically unique in literature: an articulate, faithful and intelligent readership, an active professional market for short stories, a consistent commercial niche within publishing and bookselling, a body of literary criticism that is both knowledgeable about the literature and expectant of high quality.

This is the sort of literary environment where writers can practise, where they can develop their individual voices and be heard, encouraged and soon relished.
That is the best way to read and understand this book: as an introduction not to a genre that might or might not be to everyone’s taste, but as a recommendation of the works of authors who are not known to many people outside the genre.

There are many surprises here, in that sense. Nearly one hundred of them, in fact.
Christopher Priest


100 Must-read Science Fiction Novels - Stephen E. Andrews and Nick Rennison [ Download ]